Can The QR Revolution Replace the Hyperlink?

As more and more people continue to buy and use smartphones, the market for smartphone-specific technology is getting bigger

As more and more people continue to buy and use smartphones,  the market for smartphone-specific technology is getting bigger. Links to different websites are the most popular way to connect pieces of digital information, but the layouts of smartphones and tablets are very different than those of computers, so the ways we link data together may differ as well. QR codes, short for “Quick Response,” have gained popularity in the last few years, and two companies, Paperlinks and MogoTix, are hoping that they continue to grow.

QR codes can be scanned by all smartphones. Many phones have a scanner built-in, but scanners are easily downloadable as apps. The codes, which look like the picture above, can be scanned from anywhere, like on a billboard or in a magazine. Once scanned, the code re-directs to a website for the scanned product, which gives information that is usually unique to the QR code. Among other things, many advertised movies have used QR codes to let users watch a trailer for the film after scanning the code on an ad for it.

Hamilton Chan, the CEO and Founder of Paperlinks, a QR code creation platform based in Los Angeles, believes that QR codes are still on the rise. “We believe that as QR code popularity continues to grow, this technology will eventually become the ‘go-to’ for mobile consumers looking for information about a company or product. QR codes have the ability to bridge the gap between the web and physical world. When a consumer is on the go, scanning a QR code is much quicker to do than typing in a website link,” Chan said. He also believes that the speed of the scanning action will be beneficial to the codes in the long run. “Access to immediate information is what consumers value most – they’re much more likely to take out their smartphone than go home and type in a web address.” Paperlinks is currently working with over 12,000 companies on QR-based marketing campaigns, including heavy hitters such as Nestle, GNC, and House of Blues. But along with those big names, Paperlinks is working with smaller companies as well, which Chan is proud of. “QR codes can literally be put on anything – billboards, menus, store windows, posters, business cards, invitations, etc., so any company that’s looking to create a mobile marketing campaign with interactive content is suited to work with us,” he said.

While Paperlinks is developing ways for companies to promote themselves using these codes, MogoTix, created by Scott Thorpe out of San Francisco and part of the 500 Startups program, is using the same QR technology to change how people use tickets for conferences and events. For conferences and small events, many people forget to bring their tickets after they’ve registered, creating annoying entrance lines and extra work checking people in for event staffers. With MogoTix, event planners can create events through the free MogoTix app, and people can register for it through the app as well. Then, a few hours before the event, registrants are sent an SMS with a QR code for the event. They can bring that code to the event, and the event staff can scan it with the very same MogoTix app. This way, nobody can forget his or her ticket. In the case that a person deletes the SMS by accident or forgets to bring their phone (and, come on, who forgets their phone anywhere in 2011?), MogoTix provides a list of every person that’s signed up, so that they can be manually signed in the old-fashioned way.

Thorpe believes that doing everything while mobile is a key to MogoTix’s success. “We do everything mobile. Our tickets are mobile. Users can go on our website, create an event, create a  ticket, and scan the ticket with our app, which we think is really important,” Thorpe said. MogoTix is also usable on all types of phones, which wasn’t an easy process. “We work on all phones, which took a while to do. We wanted to make sure the ticket looked good on all phones, which we’ve finally achieved. I don’t know other companies that are a mobile ticketing service like we are,” he said. The simplicity of the design of the app and the codes were key as well. “The mobile app is really easy to use. You can get an event up and running in, like, two seconds. It’s a really fast app.” MogoTix has already worked with Facebook for one of their events and is currently ticketing an event for Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

QR codes seemed to have started in the US as a novelty; a “look what my phone can do!” parlor trick. But as more people get smartphones, the codes are becoming a legitimate way for companies to get a message across to a captive audience. Whether it’s for brands to effectively advertise their wares or for people to simplify their ticket exchange process, these codes are making a difference for both companies and smartphone users. Only time will tell if they can be the mobile answer to hyperlinks, but the technology is getting ready to make it happen.

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